The Sounds of Wonderland

[Author uncredited]
Disney website, ca.2010.03
What does an odd, alien, yet wondrous world ... unlike anywhere on the surface of the Earth ... sound like? It's a question we were dying to see answered and now, thanks to Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, we have two very different answers.
Alice in Wonderland opens this Friday, March 5 – this movie is an overwhelming treat for the eye, especially if you can catch it in 3D. And, thanks to composer Danny Elfman's lush score, it's a treat for the ear as well.
Danny has been a frequent collaborator with "Alice" director Tim Burton, but even so, he says, this film was something unusual. "On this film in particular, Tim told me almost a year ago that this was going to be the craziest roller-coaster ride we'd ever taken together. There was a point halfway through where he had me visit the set, because I've done that on all of his films. This time I visited the set and there was Mia [Wasikowska, the film's Alice] on wires, and a green screen. He warned me 'there's nothing about what you're going to see that's going to help you' and he was absolutely right! Everything came together at the very end. I was determined to roll with it, and that's the best thing to do with Tim's films. We try a lot of different things and experiment, and just roll with it."
So, how did Danny find an aural equivalent for Wonderland? He laughs, "I find myself in alien worlds a lot! Many of the worlds in Tim's films are alien worlds in one way or another." Fans of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas [will] remember how Danny brought Halloweentown to life in music – perhaps Wonderland isn't such a stretch (although the two scores don't sound at all alike).
Although the Alice in Wonderland score is richly orchestral and graced with choral voices, there is one unforgettable moment where it deviates from that sound – people are sure to leave the theater buzzing about the scene in which the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) dances the "futterwack." We won't say another word about it, except to tell you that it brings down the house! "It was crazy!" Danny says with a grin. "I wrote all different kinds of pieces for Johnny's futterwack dance – and I came up with that one on the last day. Tim wanted something funky, and that's what he got!"
For a completely different musical version of Wonderland, there's Buena Vista Records' "Almost Alice" album – or perhaps we should say "16 completely different versions," for each song on the album was performed by a different musical artist. Only one of the songs, Avril Lavigne's "Alice," can be heard in the movie itself (it plays over the end credits) – the album is not a literal tie-in to the film. The idea, according to Buena Vista Records, was to let modern rock and alternative artists loose to play with the musical and cultural influences of "Alice in Wonderland." The results run the gamut from Robert Smith's quirky take on "Very Good Advice" (the only song on the album that's a remake from the soundtrack of Disney's 1951 "Alice in Wonderland") to the cheerily ethereal "The Technicolor Phase" by Owl City – but they all have that touch of Wonderland. Devoted indie fans will find some of their favorite artists here, and it's a great chance for music lovers to try a wide variety of songs from up-and-coming artists.
It seems that no one sound can fully capture Wonderland – but all of them are magical.
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